Saturday, May 29, 2010

I Love NY

Today I had a meeting in Hollywood, which despite any topic of conversation - personal or business - is most always a pleasure. Heading home during somewhat-rush-hour (just after 5:00 pm), stopping at Hollywood/Vine at Trader Joe's (I was out of cereal!), and jumping back on the subway without having to wait for more than five minutes each time reminded me of New York. When I was bringing in more money I would visit my brother in New York twice a year, for a week to week-and-a-half at a time. Of course I loved eating, shopping, and wandering around the museums, but what I loved more than anything was taking the subway.

At any time of day or night, the L would get me from Brooklyn to Union Square and back without me having to wait more than five minutes. Sometimes I'd run through the turnstiles and past the closing doors without a hitch. I loved the rush at four in the morning heading back from a club, feeling a strange sense of calm at a time of day when I am anything but. Most times, if I'm heading home on the subway after midnight in Los Angeles and walking the mile or so to my house in the dark, I'm super on-guard. Sure, there's a very slim chance someone will jump from out of a bush and knife me, but I'd like to think that if something similar happened to me in a better lit part of Brooklyn, perhaps someone stumbling home in close enough proximity would hear me scream. Maybe that's just wishful thinking, but whatever.

Suits, artists, musicians, bums, models, schoolkids, wanderers, concert/theater-goers, writers, janitors - everyone and their mother was on the subway today. No demographic was singled out, no ethnicity, sexual orientation, or economic class. The subway was for everyone this afternoon, as it is most times of day in New York (not always in LA). Naturally, the question among my East coast friends then and now seems to be that unless you live in Long Island, why have a car? Answer: not everyone lives in the city. Sometimes, "a car is necessary".

My West coast friends feel the same. I've come to grips that the Valley is one of the more obvious suburban areas complementing the "big city" we have here - although plenty of surrounding cities could easily fight for the title. When it comes to the question of going elsewhere besides the hustle, bustle, and glitz of the city, how else are you to get to the beach and the mountains (mad sucker that I am for day trips)? So faint the whisper of a car tickles my ears - a car as an option, and not a necessity. Ding ding ding ding ding... if only in a perfect world.

Anyway. Gotta love Hollywood, Los Angeles proper, and anywhere else that welcomes the use of two legs and bicycles as transportation (even if said Trader Joe's on Hollywood/Vine has no bicycle parking - a post on that soon). If I had more money, I would move. Los Angeles will never be New York, but it is still one amazing city. I hope to never leave. And if I did, it wouldn't be for long.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I just wanted to shout out to anyone and everyone who has been reading here recently, to give a heartfelt THANK YOU SO MUCH for following my adventures in making it in and around Los Angeles without a car.

I sincerely want to apologize for the lack of posts, or rather, the posts that have been made which - I truly believe - haven't been quite up to the degree of quality that I've set for myself and readers. It's been a difficult few weeks on a personal level, and unfortunately that tends to impede on any gusto, desire, and general outlook. Life happens. But when that transcends into one of my favorite forums of communication with the new and great people I have come in contact with... well, plainly, something needs to be done other than more of the same.

That said, I think I've turned a corner, and hope to very soon give you more of the attention that you have been giving me on this common thread of cycling, a healthy lifestyle, and general well-being for ourselves, friends, and family.

In the meantime, I would love it if you checked out the CarFree Challenge to take place next week, from June 1 to June 7, here at Please, tell your friends. How few miles will you drive next week?

Being that I already drive zero miles a week, I think I'm already there. Y tu?

Again, I truly want to thank you.

Happy cycling~

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Google Maps, Take Me Away

This afternoon I took a much deserved bicycle ride down to Mulberry Street Pizzeria on Ventura Blvd between Balboa and Louise. It's easily one of the best New York pizza places in the Valley - and this statement comes from my roommate and ex-boyfriend, both native New Yorkers. That and their eggplant parmigiana is enough to feed two and is simply all sorts of ridiculously delicious.

Since I've been there a million times and needed to get out of the house (been writing too much) I thought I'd grab their lunch special - two slices of cheese pizza, half a salad and a drink - which was more than satisfying. I think my stomach might actually object to dinner tonight. But of course this post isn't merely about one of my favorite places to eat, but actually getting there and getting there safely. I figured the most direct route would be the best, when I really should have just referred to Google Maps and their directions by bicycle function. Getting there in the most direct way was actually the most useful for getting there by car, and therefore not the most ideal by bicycle. All other times I'd been there were on late-night dates or meeting with friends, so naturally I didn't think about it. Besides, I was starving.

Sadly, the direct way involved riding on the sidewalk for a spell. My whole thing with riding on the sidewalk is that unless you're riding in a residential area with your child it is likely more dangerous than riding on the street. Here's why: riding in the street allows for far more predictable maneuvering; besides if one car sees you in riding with traffic, they will probably (not definitely) look out for you. As opposed to riding on the sidewalk, often opposite traffic, going up and down curbs and in and out of driveways - completely unavoidable - it is more likely that you'll get struck by a car. It sounds backwards, I know, especially to the non-commuter - but it's all shades of true.

That said, once I got there, there was no bicycle rack of any kind. Imagine how lame I felt locking up my bike to a parking sign, but in being the only option it was relatively secure in the parking behind the establishment. It kind of reminds me though, when I went to get a new phone at a Sprint store in January and I couldn't find bicycle parking anywhere - this was also in Encino on Ventura Boulevard. Now I'm not saying it's the Boulevard's fault, but most establishments surrounding the area are not pedestrian-friendly, let alone bike-friendly. Just an observation.

I really feel that as of late I've been going on rants and I do apologize. It is a gorgeous day outside and I intend on getting back into it after I wrap up things this evening. I guess I just have to accept for a while that to some people bicyclists and pedestrians are as much a myth as unicorns and leprechauns, and therefore are catered to in a one-in-one-hundred need. And I guess as far as getting around by bicycle instead of trusting merely my instincts, my motto should be "Make Frequent Use of Google Maps and Be Happy".

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Health Matters

I am so, so tired... oh, how the night-bleeding-into-morning look clashes with my drive.

Two weeks from now is the 10th Annual Los Angeles River Ride, and as stated numerous times already, I will be riding my bicycle 70 miles. No sweat. That said, I haven't been really keeping up with good nutrition, hydration, and sleeping habits. Working and playing hard should be no excuse, but even with it being completely lame it is still a reason.

Up until about two weeks ago I was the average Jill's model of fitness and nutrition, if not sleep (trust me, if I could program my brain to let me sleep past 7:00 am after being up until 5:00 am, I would - and I'd likely look to profit off of the idea). What can I say; life got the better of me. It happens sometimes. Now that I've noticed the detour, it's time to get back on track. Get in the saddle. Set aside the time. Eat well despite any stress. Don't work through meals. Go grocery shopping. Drink water; get electrolytes. Adhere to a schedule and make it work... because the last thing I need two weeks from now is to have a embarrassing spill en route to the city of Long Beach before I hit the water station.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Well, at least there's no backseat."

This video was brought to my attention from one Miss Jessica Lewis from TransFormCA, an advocacy group based in the Bay Area that works in support of "world-class public transportation and walkable communities". An advertisement for their annual Car-Free Challenge - which is to take place this year from June 1 to June 7 - I found this to be super cute... probably because it features a bicycle.

Check it out:

And click here to learn more about Car-Free Challenge 2010.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Valley Metro Service vs. Over the Hill (or Slave to Oil)

As mentioned previously, Thursday and Friday last week involved my heading over the hill to the Century City then Beverly Hills region of Los Angeles for some film press coverage (said coverage that has so far taken me three hours to transcribe fifteen minutes of Q & A, but I digress). What I discovered is that as long as I have music, a book, paper, and a pen, I am fine with taking time to get where I need to go, even if it takes much longer than use of a vehicle. However, I had it kind of hammered into me as to why some people in the Valley choose to have a car over taking a part in public transit. While over-the-hill may have a lot more surface street traffic at odd times of the day than the Valley, there is one thing that it does have that the Valley would find far more valuable: more transit, more often.

Getting where I needed to go took just under two hours, with traffic. Getting home, however, took two and a half hours, without traffic. The buses over the hill came so often that there was no need for a timetable. Back in the Valley though, the longest wait involved the 165 heading west from Vanowen and Van Nuys. I must have waited about thirty minutes, because I got through a good portion of Coraline on my iPod nano. Not only was that ridiculous, but... well, I'm just going to leave it at ridiculous. Because ridiculous it was.

In talking with my friends yesterday (and riling up my feelings about it all), I am still lacking understanding in how the Valley is left with such poor service when we have as many people if not more as over the hill? Especially when you consider the amount of residential space and that perhaps it would be nice to get home under an hour at 10:00 pm, or even make it twenty blocks without having to wait a full thirty minutes for the metal contraption that will take you there. What about the West Valley? The Orange Line ends at Canoga station, just before the Westfield Topanga Mall - a mall that conveniently caters to just cars. There is no pedestrian pathway to the mall. In order to walk to any of the stores, no matter where you enter, you must walk through a parking lot. How's that for safe? In addition, there is no bike lane and no bus that won't take less than 20 minutes of your time to wait for it to arrive. So even trying to get there in a greener sense will probably make your temper burn a slight red.

I realize that I'm going off on a rant and ramble here but the issue runs mighty deep. In another example, I used to go to Los Angeles Pierce College and every night that I got out of class at 9:45pm, I had to wait an hour for the next (and last) bus of the night. It was the only option, considering the bus that ran parallel to the street I actually lived on would have stopped service about an hour and a half prior. Spring nights weren't so bad, since they meant breezy rides on my bicycle. But the winter nights were plenty irksome and uncomfortable at times, waiting in the cold.

I'm just saying, if people with cars work weird shifts or go to night school or need to make a late night run to a CVS or whatever the case may be, isn't it at all possible that people without a car might need to do so as well? "That's the way things are" doesn't cut it any more, neither does "Well if you don't like it, get a car." Forget that nonsense. Any bustling city's inhabitants should be able to span its distance with little problem or fuss. It should be a given. I hate pulling this card, but what else are our taxes going to that is making this a relative impossibility? What will it take for the car to be an option, and not something you'd be lost without?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Quick and Random

I just came back from a Trader Joe's run on my bicycle, as I do every week. And as I do every week, I mention to the cashier/grocery-bagger that I ride my bicycle, so they can fill my backpack and canvas bag because I won't be needing the paper bags. And as what usually happens every week, I get into a nice conversation - usually asking if I'm from New York or Chicago.

"Nope, I've lived in the Valley my whole life."
"Really? I'm just amazed; you don't worry about toppling or feeling weird side-to-side on your bike with the groceries?"
"Nope, I do it every week (also with the hope that I'll finally win a $25 TJs gift card, but I digress)."

There's a weird sense of pride that people think I grew up elsewhere because I ride my bicycle instead of own a car at the moment. But also it made me think, well, why can't Los Angeles be known for bicycles as transportation as much as Chicago or New York? Why are we so behind? Everything has its purpose, and as I've mentioned before, I'm not against cars or eventually getting one (maybe). But as far as the day-to-day goes, I'm making do without one for now (and appreciate those who offer rides when options are limited). I don't pat myself on the back every day I do. I just ... go on as usual.

The person doing the talking was very cute, very nice. I assume they were being just that - why I always hold this fantasy that I'll pick up the love of my life at a grocery store, I don't know. Anyway, after name-dropping Midnight Ridazz for group rides, we talked about the pedestrian/bicycle path that runs alongside the Orange Line bus way. I was then recommended a movie I am ashamed I haven't heard of - Fuel, a film whose DVD apparently comes out on June 22. I'll be checking it out. Has anyone else heard of/seen it?

On my way to unlock my bicycle, I heard a customer behind me say "I can't believe it; She's... wow. I don't know if I'd be able to do that" - namely, ride a bicycle nearly everywhere. That made me feel really good. And that's all I have to say about that.

"I've Got a Date with the Night"

I love twilight, mostly because it pleasantly mimics sunrise, a time of day I am normally sleeping through to appreciate fully. Summer nights seem to come a lot sooner in southern California than most any place else, another reason I might not be able to move, ever. The other night I went for a five-mile run at around 8pm and it almost felt like I was at the beach. The smell, the swirl of the breeze, the layers of color across the sky that take after an oceanic horizon. It lights me up inside, and, naturally, to quote Sheryl Crow: "If it makes you happy, then it can't be that bad."

Some of my favorite times on my bicycle involve the twilight, watching a yellow moon rise through a rose and violet sky, being framed by silhouettes of trees and lamp posts. And hell, I've a soft spot for the blinking of head and rear lights through partial darkness. For some reason during the summer I feel the most creative, the most active. There's always an unintended surge of new life. Ah, l'amour.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Getting Around Town in a Pair of Heels

(A brief shout-out to all the women out there who ride their bicycles in high heels and skirts. I am not brave enough to do so. It sounds like it'd be fun and endearingly cute, what with the right pair of plum-colored tights. But be it a gust of wind or an odd general angle, I am not willing to give up a shot of the goods so easily. That and I can't imagine a pair of pumps fitting well within the cages on my pedals. I'll give it a whirl one of these days, though, and will report back to you.)

Every now and then something requires my getting somewhere in more formal dress than jeans and a sweater. Whether covering the opening of a dance academy in Hollywood or just heading out to wherever the bass is pumping, at times I'm inclined to wear high heels and a nice dress - and in such cases I make friendly with my TAP card and take the bus. is my usual source for bus routes and corresponding times to get where I need to go, and while it's generally reliable, its lack of direction and non-user-friendly map makes travel a bit sketchy.

This Thursday and Friday I'll be heading to Beverly Hills for a press screening and conference, and while I won't necessarily be wearing heels, I'll not want to be a sweaty mess. In preparation, I GoogleMapped the addresses, just to make sure I knew where I was going, then noticed the Get Directions drop-down menu, which, among other options, included public transit. Not only did it tell me what buses to take and at what time, but exactly where to walk when transferring. Way to make my life easier. Absolutely brilliant; beyond sexy. I want to write someone a love letter. Metro, you need to play Catch Up, and quickly... and that's all I have to say about that.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bike to Work Week LA

Yay! Every year, like Christmas and birthday season, I so look forward to National Bike Month. Sure, every month is Bike Month around these parts (except when it's raining buckets), but this is when it's official. Cities all across the US are declaring their week in which to hold Bike to Work Day, with the hope of encouraging the use of bicycles as a lifestyle inclusion. Despite the state of the economy, bicycle infrastructure has been improving from New York, NY, to Long Beach, CA - and I guess you can say that because of the state of the economy, people are taking to bike paths and lanes like they haven't before, therefore improving their lives all around.

All this positivity makes me wonder why in the world it was so difficult to find any information on Los Angeles' Bike to Work Week, supported by Don't get me wrong; Metro has some great information - specialized guides on bikes and safety, and info on the 2nd Metro Bicycle Roundtable Meeting, which I myself will try to attend. However, there was no specific link on Bike to Work Week. In fact, Google 'los angeles bike to work week' and it is the fifth option down. The four preceding results are from prior years, from other sources.

I just found it a little interesting that I wasn't the only one having this problem. Seems that the key is Googling 'Bike Week LA'. I sincerely believe the name was changed to accommodate the number of persons that will not be biking to work this year as they likely were last year, if you know what I mean. The inclusiveness is much appreciated, but not everyone is going to know to search for the event as such. Also, it's May. Why is there no info on the front page?

That said, here's a flier about the week-long event, including information on prizes, sponsors, and a calendar of events:

Monday, May 17, 8am: Bike Week LA Kick-Off Event at LAPD Headquarters

Tuesday, May 18, 8am: Blessing of the Bicycles at the Good Samaritan Hospital (visit for more information)

Wednesday, May 19, 8am: Downtown LA Bike Ride starts at Olvera St

Thursday, May 20 Bike to Work Day:
6-9am: Pit stops will be distributing refreshments and sponsor giveaways.
All Day: Free rides on Metro and other carriers. Visit for more information.

Friday, May 21: Bike to School Day

Sounds like fun! I hope in one way or another we're all able to get involved.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Multiple Random Thoughts

No formality, no intro, no conclusion; just thoughts. And... go!

-This afternoon I saw a man on the Orange Line bicycle path with his big dog who was not so coincidentally taking a huge crap on the dirt alongside it. (The dog, not the man.) Not surprisingly, the man did not clean up after his dog. It was so sizable that the man himself might as well have pulled down his trousers and did it himself. He actually had the nerve to say good afternoon to me as I ran by (if I don't bike, I try to run at least five miles a day)... I slowed down to see if he would pull out something to clean up the mess, but no. No attempt. If I'd not been coming up on mile 4.5 I'd've yelled at him. I'll bet if I run by tomorrow it will still be there. If you can't be bothered to clean up after your dog, why the hell do you think someone else will? It's disgusting and far from environmentally friendly, you jerk.

-I rode my bicycle for a quick Trader Joe's run at twilight - a time of day that is already my favorite - but this jaunt in particular was, dare I say, enhanced by a feeling akin to flying. The seat of my bike felt a little higher, which let off a little on my knees and lower back. The black of the asphalt and the dark blue of the sky blended into one level of darkness despite my head and rear lights. The night air was pleasantly cool, wrapping its way around my legs, forearms and waist, kissing the back of my neck and ears. It was all so lovely. Then I realized that my roommate had taken the liberty of tuning my bike and adjusting things. Perhaps he saw that my bicycle was screaming for help; perhaps he was just being helpful - in either case I'm going to make a point to learn my bicycle better than just the surface stuff. I already know how to adjust my chain, disconnect/re-connect my brakes and remove my wheels if necessary. Now it's time to get a little more personal. Ride documentation is great and all, but methinks I'm going to get my hands dirty, if you get my drift.

-This may sound horribly morbid, but in the 2+ years I've been regularly riding my bicycle, well, everywhere, I have okayed within myself the possibility that I might die while riding. Ideally this scenario would involve me being 95 years old and having the time of my life, but sadly the scenario(s) involve(s) vehicles and me not making it to my 30th birthday. It is sad and actually exceptionally morbid, but in an odd way it has made me less afraid of death. This isn't isolated only to bicycling; it pertains to being a pedestrian and driving as well. I can only do what I can. If I die in the right, trying to avoid something and being proactive as I can - well, what more can one person do?

-The 10th Annual Los Angeles River Ride is in almost exactly four weeks, and I will be doing the 70 mile ride. If anyone would like to do lunch with me afterward, I will be starving. Hit me up.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bats Day

Bats Day at Disneyland is one of the many yearly traditions I partake in. It's pretty much on the same scale as Christmas and my birthday. That said, I was very happy to have "celebrated" it this year with a few good friends and some happy haunts.

In an effort to make this post bicycle-related, I happened upon this "poster" in New Orleans Square at about midnight, just before wandering over to Main Street, U.S.A., for some ice cream and a few moments in the cinema:

If you're unaware of how Cycles Brion came to be, here's an excerpt from the history of Olivia Brion, suffragette and inspiration behind Brion bicycles and interestingly, Heron Lake Winery (no, I don't digress; take in your your history lesson):

Ancestry of Olivia Brion: How Cycles Brion Came to Be

During the high Middle Ages, three vineyards at the edge of the city of Bordeaux achieved fame for the exquisite quality of their red wines: Haut-Brion just north of the Pessac road, Laville Haut-Brion a quarter-mile to the south, and, between them, Basse-Brion. For fifteen generations these vineyards were lovingly cared for by the two branches of the Brion family– until the 1870s when the terrible advent of Phylloxera threatened to end forever this tradition of greatness.

The Haut-Brions dug in their heels: they mortgaged their chateaux to the hilt, tore out all their precious (but dying) vines, and replanted with the new American rootstock. Slowly they were able to restore their vineyards and winemaking.

Comte Pierre Gilles-Gascon de Blanquefort de la Basse-Brion [...] changed his name to Peter Brion and moved to Paris, where he invested the £200 in the new technology of bicycle making. His "farthing-penny" design did not sell well, and the disconsolate Peter declined into days of absinthe at the Lapin Agile. His daughter Mercedes took over the business and created a woman-friendly design with herself as model. This was a runaway success and restored the family fortune, paving the way for the even more brilliant success of Olivia Brion in the next generation.

Well, would you look at that; you learned something today, as did I. Let's pat ourselves on the backs, shall we?

Anyway, Bats Day. I really liked my outfit this year:

And these were just a few fun photos in general (I stayed until far after closing, when there were absolutely no crowds);

Silly, but whatever. It's possible that more will surface, with crowds donned in all sorts of expressive attire.

I mentioned some time ago that I'd eventually make a point to bicycle to Disneyland one of these days... perhaps this summer. Oh, bicycle fever. We all could stand to "suffer" from it - just a little bit.

Time to fall into bed. Every cyclist must have their sleep.